December, 30, 2011
4:15 p.m. Lankershim Boulevard and Tiara Street, North Hollywood
An LAFD engine and rescue ambulance are dispatched to the scene of an "ambulance, felony hit-and-run." LAPD Valley Traffic Division patrol units are also called to respond to the scene. The Valley Traffic dispatcher informs the responding units that a bicyclist was hit by a vehicle that fled the scene. (A witness at the scene states the accident happened at 4:12 p.m.)
Patch arrives on the scene, and a Valley Traffic officer is stringing LAPD crime scene tape and aggressively waving off drivers attempting to drive through the yellow tape. There are personal items like clothing, a carrying case for a laptop computer, a satchel and papers scattered in the northbound lanes of Lankershim Boulevard. A bloodied white shirt stands out in the clutter, as does the trail of blood on the asphalt. A mangled "fixie" (a bike with only a fixed, single gear) is sitting on the sidewalk.
The rescue ambulance has already left the incident scene and is heading to Cedars-Sinai with the patient in serious condition, suffering from injuries to the head.
A man without a shirt is walking hastily around the traffic incident scene, near the southeast corner of Lankershim Boulevard and Tiara Street. The shirtless man appears to be talking to himself out loud. A woman carrying a baby stands nearby, and she is silently staring at the shirtless man, then at the debris scattered in the street.
A single green boot sits upright at the southeast street corner.
The same Valley Traffic officer approaches the shirtless man, and starts asking him questions about what he may have witnessed at the scene. The shirtless man gets very excited, and the traffic officer tersely requests the man to "calm down."
Then the shirtless man points and gestures with his hands to places along Lankershim Boulevard, and to a truck parked on the northbound side of the boulevard.
The woman carrying the baby tells Patch that she knows the hit-and-run victim. She holds up a sheet of paper with a young man's face on it, a headshot sheet. She says this is a picture of the man who was riding the bicycle. His name is Lex. She points out that all the paper that's lying in the street is from a stack of headshots the man was carrying when he was struck by the car.
The woman's name is Victoria, and she is the wife of the shirtless man, named Steve. Victoria explains that she did not see the accident happen because she was across the street inside a shop, while her husband was watching their five-month-old daughter outside on the sidewalk, holding the girl in his arms.
Victoria says the injured bicyclist is an aspiring actor who lives close by. She knows him from their gym, 24 Hour Fitness, just blocks away in the NoHo Arts District. "I can't believe it! He's such a sweet person, such a sweet person... he was coming from the gym..." Victoria pauses and hugs her daughter closer, then she looks down at the bike and the belongings in the street, then at the headshot print, holding back her tears.
Steve has finished talking with the traffic officer, who asks him to wait nearby to answer a few more questions later on.
Steve says he is a journalist, an "E.N.G.," (electronic news gathering) who captures video for freelance assignments. He was not working today.
Steve says, "I cover things like this all the time. It doesn't phase me. But when you're involved in it, when it's personal, it's a different feeling. It gets to me."
Steve apologizes because he is emotional, and he also remarks about his earlier argument with the traffic officer. Steve explains he was just trying to help the injured man. "I took my shirt off so I could use it to stop the bleeding. He was bleeding so much. I wanted him to rest his head. He had a hole in his head... I could see his brain..." Steve looks upset when he thinks about the image.
Steve says the traffic officer felt he was disturbing the crime scene, by moving things around. Steve says he just wanted to make the injured man comfortable until the ambulance arrived.
Steve tells about meeting Lex, the man on the bicycle, for the first time just minutes before. "This man comes riding up on his bike, and he starts staring at my daughter, and then he calls her 'Puma'... a nickname, I guess. I don't know who this man is, and yet he knows my daughter! I am wondering how he knows." Steve says the man circled around on his bike and was waving at the baby and calling her, "Puma."
Steve says that the man on the bike finally stopped and said he knows his wife and daughter from the gym. Steve says Lex waved, smiled and excitedly greeted the baby girl.
"Then the man rode away," Steve says, " and I am thinking, he should be paying attention to where he is riding." Steve says that from where he was standing at the time, a large truck blocked his view of Lankershim Boulevard, and Lex rode off northbound, beside the truck, and out of Steve's view.
Steve says, "Right after, I heard a bang. Then I ran past the truck, and I see the guy laying in the street. He is hurt and bleeding, and his belongings are all over." Steve says he rushed in to help, while another car had stopped to block traffic near where Lex had landed. Steve says he did not see the vehicle hit Lex, but he says another witness got the license plate of the car that fled the scene.
Steve feels responsible for the accident, he tells. "I should have put my daughter in the stroller. If he did not see my daughter as I was holding her, he probably would not have been hit."
A man who recognizes Lex's bike talks to the traffic officer and says he is Lex's neighbor. The officer tells the man that Lex was seriously injured. Upon hearing the news, the man looks shocked, and holds the top of his head.
Josh Moreno, of Van Nuys, says he was driving his Toyota Camry northbound on Lankershim Boulevard, when he witnessed the vehicle before him strike the bicyclist. His girlfriend, Daniela Hidalgo, was sitting in the front passenger seat.
Josh tells what he saw: "The guy on the bike was moving over into the other lane, like he was trying to make a left turn. Then this car runs into him, and he flew..." Josh points out where the strike happened and where Lex landed. "Maybe 50 or 60 feet. The car stopped, then it sped away."
Josh says he didn't get a look at the driver, but someone else was able to get a license plate. The car was described as a light-colored Chevy Blazer.
Josh recalls, "I saw the man laying in the street in serious pain... he had a hole in his head."
Daniela says she only heard the impact of the vehicle with the bike and rider, as she wasn't looking in the direction of the accident. "I heard the crash. It was a big sound. It sounded like a car hit something big... like a motorcycle. And then I heard a whole bunch of papers fluttering in the air. Then I saw the man and the bike. It made me shake." Daniela says she had to get out of the car and stand away from the accident scene. "I was shaking so much."
Officer Freeman, of LAPD's Valley Traffic Division, offers details about the incident. "The bicyclist was riding in a northbound direction on Lankershim Boulevard from Califa Street, when he made a lane change (into the left hand lane) and was struck by the suspect vehicle."
Freeman says that from the information given by the eyewitnesses, the driver of the vehicle may not have been at fault in this situation, considering how the bike had moved into traffic.
Freeman adds, "But since the driver did not stop and stay at the scene, and did not provide aid to the injured (calling 911), that is a felony offense. Now that driver will take the brunt of full responsibility for this accident."
Freeman says they have "the last known address of the registered owner of the vehicle," and LAPD officers are on their way to visit that address.
Freeman receives word that Lex is in the emergency room triage at Cedars-Sinal Hospital with "severe injuries, but he is expected to pull through."